Happy: the Julius Caesar of French Counter Strike

From Source obscurity to one of France's legendary IGLs, the path for Vincent Schopenhauer has been one of impressive feats, innovative approaches and internal treachery.


Photo Credit: (DreamHack)

Origins

Happy, then under the alias “EMSTQD”, played under Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans from 2007 on various lineups including GlobalTeam, redLine and Epsilon, with the latter team winning the eXperience 2008 in Denmark. He was replaced on Crack Clan by Damien “Malek” Marcelan due to being unable to dedicate the time to the team to prepare for the upcoming season at the end of 2008.

While he captained his own team, Creativ‘, in 2009, Happy eventually reunited with Ex6TenZ as redLine signed for the legendary VeryGames organisation, but Happy left to focus on his studies a few months later.

After this, Happy once again took the lead in smaller French teams. Despite being overshadowed by the titan that was VeryGames, future notable players had spent time on his rosters in this time including Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and Kevin “Uzzziii” Vernel. In 2011, Happy led 3DMAX (Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, AsP-, ScreaM and Richard “shox” Papillon) to a third-place finish at Copenhagen Games, having lost to VeryGames, the eventual champions, in the semifinal 0-2.

Winter wonder child

Following the release of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the name “EMSTQD” was dropped in favour of the alias ‘Happy’. The choice was deliberately ironic, as Happy remained calm and unexpressive on the surface. However, a vision for the game and a radical approach to Counter-Strike was brewing just below. 

In the wake of the first French shuffle, apEX, Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian and Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez abandoned Happy and took with them the legend status his lineup had earned in the process to Ex6TenZ’s Titan. Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt, Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux, Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey and shox formed Mercenary and despite not being their first choice, the addition of Happy turned out to be the making of them once they signed to LDLC.

DreamHack Winter 2014 took place in a haze of controversy for the French scene. A wave of Valve bans for match-fixing were handed out to various French figures while Titan player KQLY was VAC banned before the event, as was Epsilon’s Sf, leading to both teams being disqualified from the Major. With no other domestic competitors, Team LDLC were the only French team present. Having beaten ESC Gaming and old rivals NiP in the group stage, and Happy in immensely strong form, LDLC looked like a strong contender for the entire competition.

In the quarterfinal match against Fnatic, LDLC were up 12–3 and the second pistol round, with Fnatic on the CT side, began. Fnatic star Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer was boosted up and had visibility across a huge amount of the map. This boost wasn’t just used in the pistol round, it was used in multiple rounds to give Fnatic the edge over LDLC, leading to a 16–13 victory for the Swedes and the elimination of Team LDLC.

While Fnatic’s boost was more devastating in terms of impact, LDLC were found to have used a similar glitch. After all of the celebrations, frustrations, angry social media posts, it was ruled the teams should replay the map. Instead, Fnatic chose to forfeit and LDLC instead advanced to the semifinal against Na’Vi. A clash with old Swedish rivals Ninjas in Pyjamas awaited in the final and LDLC were victorious, winning the Major.

Happy was crowned the MVP of the tournament and the players who had left for greener pastures on Titan could only watch from the sidelines. HLTV.org later listed Happy as the tenth best player of 2014 in their annual top twenty list. His teammates had nothing but positive words to say about him in the post-game interviews as they looked to the future as new Major champions.

EnVyUs

Having received an offer he couldn’t refuse by a new organisation as LDLC contracts expired, nV became Happy’s new home. The roster with kioShiMa, shox, SmithZz and NBK was EnVyUs’ first venture into CS:GO and would become Happy’s organisation for the next three years.

This roster would attend DreamHack Open London 2015 in September which led to one of Happy’s most iconic plays, a Deagle ace against TSM. 2015 will always be considered a golden year of French CS and for Happy, this was his true peak. However, this would not be a story about the French Counter-Strike scene is drama wasn’t on the horizon when everything is looking up from the outside.

The duo of shox and SmithZz were causing friction on nV and Happy, kio and NBK agreed to swap them for Titan’s kennyS and apEX in the summer of 2015 in what would become known as the second French shuffle. The news was delivered to shox and SmithZz the night before their semifinal game at Electronic Sports World Cup 2015 and would be the last time shox and Happy would be on the same roster. 

ESL One: Cologne saw nV reach the grand final and by DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, Fnatic’s era was shaken and EnVyUs were strong enough to take the title over Na’Vi, marking Happy’s second Major title.

Mutiny soon occurred on the nV roster, with NBK taking the reins and kio being replaced controversially by LDLC’s DEVIL and labelled ‘the problem’ of the French scene. As he was deposed, Happy was clearly not happy and in time, control was once again handed back to him as things didn’t work out on the team.

As G2 sought replacements towards the end of 2016, nV was the natural hunting ground. Both apEX and kennyS were the best in their roles in France and NBK was a kingmaker, present in so many moments of French CS success over the previous four years. The whispers of a superteam soon saw Happy abandoned by three of his teammates as well as analyst enkay j and nV was left to rebuild with the pieces G2 did not want. RpK, xms and devoduvek were the initial recruits, but soon after discussions with FaZe fell through, ScreaM joined in place of devoduvek.

EnVyUs were not a bad team but had no real consistent LAN showings or reliable strong maps in their pool. A win at DreamHack Atlanta was the team’s only win and required RpK, ScreaM and Happy posting event ratings of 1.29, 1.20 and 1.19 respectively to bring home the trophy.

As the team stumbled into 2018, once again mutiny struck, as Kio took the majority of nV to the CS:GO Asia Championships 2018, bringing back xms and SIXER, in place of RpK and Happy. Statements made suggested that there were constant fights between Happy and the team in game as well as a bad atmosphere in the team by the time Kio had returned. The removal of maLeK was meant to help alleviate some of the conflict as he did not see eye-to-eye with Happy, but in the end, the players sided with Kio as he chose to lead the team first as nV, then LeftOut, through to the European Minor for the FACEIT Major in London.

Calm during the Storm

With the collapse of nV, Happy and RpK saw themselves teamless. Happy not only lost a team this time but lost the organisation he had represented for over three years.

The pair ended up standing in for Tempo Storm for a matter of months before that team too imploded. As their former teammates sought other opportunities without them and the French scene saw a plethora of potential players to chose from, it wasn’t known where they would end up. 

With the second-best team in France dissolving and its players splitting apart, and G2 set to embark on shox’s project, the stage was set for a new team to emerge. As G2’s changes saw the benching of NBK and apEX, the French prodigy ZywOo finally finished with school and multiple organisations in the wings to potentially buy a team, a French shuffle was once again in the air.

Rebirth

Team Vitality was a fresh start for Happy. Without the reins as an IGL, he was the most questioned pickup for the roster headlined by French prodigy Mathieu “ZywOoHerbaut. His style seemed to be exactly what you would expect and while Vitality got the win at DreamHack Atlanta 2018, where he posted his best top tier LAN statistics since IEM Oakland 2017 over a year previously, Happy was benched after Christmas. His replacement is Alex “ALEX” McMeekin, LDLC veteran and also a former IGL, who will be brought in under NBK’s continued leadership.

Many of France’s biggest names enter 2019 on the bench or removed from their teams. The likes of Kio have sought opportunities away from the French scene while Ex6TenZ has expressed his interest in joining an international team himself too.

The long-reigning kings of France have fallen. The kingmaker has taken a crown for himself and the younger, more inexperienced players of the scene are finally getting bigger chances at the top after years of the recycling and shuffles in the exact same deck of cards. 

Is this a good thing for the scene? Undoubtedly. Is it too little too late? Only time will tell.

And now, what will happen to Happy?

It could be the end of his professional career. Like Maniac earlier this year, Happy could choose to retire. At 27, he is very much a veteran who could bring his experience to a team in the form of a coach or take his knowledge to an analyst desk. Shox, a year his junior, tried his hand at analysis during DreamHack Masters Marseille while on the bench recovering from his wrist surgery.

If Happy chose to continue playing, there are a handful of options for him that seem most likely. With Ex6TenZ also sitting on a nearby bench, the two could reunite for the first time in ten years alongside any of the big French scene free agents or even some newer, inexperienced talent who could benefit from such legendary figures by their side.

With shox, kio and the rest of ex-nV at odds with Happy, Vitality might just have been a life support keeping him in the upper echelon of French Counter-Strike for a few more months longer than expected.

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Phoebe Dua

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I'm a UK-based student who enjoys sports of multiple varieties, but has a soft spot for esports.

I used to co-host the Clucking Karambit podcast, now podcastless.

Follow me on Twitter - @Dualism97!

 

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